Chapter 2

Labyrinth of Emotion

Haruhi hung up the phone, still slightly confused; Tamaki had never asked her for help with homework before.

'Dad,' she called into the dining room, 'Tamaki's coming over, okay?'

'But sweetheart, I'm going out tomorrow afternoon, and you know I don't like you having boys over when I'm not here.'

'No, no, he's coming over tonight,' she replied, but somehow didn't think that that would console him much.

'What?!? No. Absolutely not. It's far too late. What business does he have here at this hour, anyway?

'It's only nine o'clock, and he needs help with homework. Don't make a big about this, Dad. Please.'

'He's your sempai! Why would he need help from a younger student?'

'He has this essay that he left to the last minute, and he knows I'm a good student…'

'Oh, so he's a slacker, too. I'm not sure I want you hanging around with such a bad influence, Haruhi.'

'Dad!' Haruhi snapped, but then she sighed and walked into the dining room, sitting down across from him. 'Dad,' she repeated calmly, 'this has gone on long enough. We need to talk about this.'

'What do you mean?'

'I don't like the way you treat him.'

'I'm only trying to protect you, Haru. You're my daughter, that's my job.'

'No, Dad, listen. You don't need to keep me safe from Tamaki; he isn't a threat. He protects me! He risked his life to save me. Twice. He isn't going to hurt me.'

'You think I don't know a player when I see one—'

'Dad,' Haruhi interrupted, and suddenly, for no reason, there were tears in her eyes. 'Dad, he's my friend,' she continued softly. 'Can't you understand that? When I started at Ouran no one talked to me. I was a freak, an outcast, a commoner. I had come to terms with the fact that I would go through high school without any friends at all. But Tamaki accepted me, Dad. He invited me to join his club, he made an effort to make sure I enjoyed myself. I love the others, too, of course, but I know that if Tamaki hadn't invited me, they wouldn't have, either.' She paused for a second, trying to control her burning eyes.

'Haruhi,' her father said quietly, but she cut him off again.

'You have to stop this. I'm happy, Dad. They make me happy. He makes me happy. When I'm around Tamaki I'm happier, I feel more at home, than I have since…since Mom died. Can't you understand that? Can't you stop making this hard for me and just accept the fact that I need friends? You can't be everything to me, Dad.'

There was silence for a long moment and then her dad, his eyes bright, said, 'Of course I can, sweetheart. I'm sorry.'

'Thanks,' she whispered, and then forced herself to get a grip. She blinked her eyes several times, and then smiled, back to normal. At least on the outside, anyway—inside she felt strangely shaky. It had been a long time since she had shown that much emotion. She was used to just bottling everything up inside of her.

'Anyway,' Haruhi said, getting to her feet. 'I'm gonna go do my own homework for now.' She walked back to her room, running her fingers through her hair. She still missed having long hair, but she also knew that if she hadn't cut it off she would never have gotten into the Host Club. She had only just sat back down at her desk when a knock came at the door.

He got here fast, she thought, standing back up, but when she got out into the hall she saw that her father had already let Tamaki, and was being perfectly polite. Suppressing a smile, she gestured for her friend to come and join her.

'Hey, Haruhi,' he said with a smile, in the soft voice he always used when talking to girls. 'Is something wrong with your dad?' he asked once the door was closed. 'He was being…you know. Nice. Normal.'

'He just threw a fit when he heard you were coming, so we talked and he agreed to lay off.' She frowned, looking around her closet of a bedroom. 'Sorry, Sempai, I don't have another chair. One sec, I'll go and get one,'

'Oh, don't worry about it,' Tamaki replied, flopping down on her bed and pulling out his laptop. 'Come on, let's just sit here.'

'Um…okay,' Haruhi answered, settling herself down at his side, careful not to brush against him as she sat. No matter what she had said to her dad, she couldn't deny that being around Tamaki was…Just focus on the school work, she told herself, cutting that thought short. But she felt like she was lost, trying to find her way through endless twisting hallways. Earlier she had chosen one path, fighting her father for Tamaki, but now she shied from it. He moved closer to her, opening his computer on his lap so that in order to see it she would have to lean towards him. She glanced away. Why couldn't they have just sat at the desk?

'Are you okay, Haru?' Tamaki asked. She glanced back and saw him watching her, his eyes full of…something. She swallowed. He was so oblivious, but he could also be so damn insightful. 'You can tell me, Haruhi,' he said softly.

'What do mean? I'm fine,' she replied, closing her eyes and forcing a bright smile. It wasn't like she could tell him that what was worrying her was him.

'You can't fool me, Haruhi. I know you too well,' he answered, and she felt his cool fingers on her face, lifting her chin, caressing her cheek. Her breath hitched in her throat and her wide, fake smile faltered. When was the last time someone had touched her so gently? Her father loved her, there was no doubt in her mind about it. But while he showed no shortage of emotion, he wasn't very good at demonstrating tenderness, especially since her mother had died. For just a second Haruhi felt herself leaning into Tamaki's touch.

'Listen, are we going to work on your essay or not?' she said, pulling back, angry with herself.

'Yeah,' Tamaki replied after a moment. 'I did do a bit of research. What do you think my thesis statement should be?'

'What? You haven't even come up with a thesis statement yet? Sempai, we're going to be here all night!'

'You know, since you're the one helping me it's a little silly for you to call me sempai, don't you think?' he asked, turning to look at her quizzically, his sapphire eyes sparkling.

Sapphire? Did I just think that? Haruhi shook her head. What was wrong with her? She remembered the incomprehensible tumult of emotions she'd felt when he had been with Éclair, and then the confusing peace that had washed over her later, when she'd danced in his arms at the Ouran Fair. Why? What was happening to her? Where had her rationality gone? Everything was confusing, and she had no idea which way to turn.

'Okay, fine. We're going to be here all night, Tamaki.' His lips twitched, and he started to laugh.

'That wasn't even funny,' Haruhi growled, scowling to stop herself from laughing with him, but that only made him laugh harder. Tamaki, Tamaki, what am I going to do about you?

He shoved the laptop into her lap, sliding closer to her and wrapping an arm around her waist. 'Okay, genius, let's write my essay.'

Haruhi sat frozen. Get a grip, she tried to tell herself. He treats all girls like this. No, he treats most girls better—I mean, worse! He treats most girls worse. Better? Where had that come from?

'Um, it's kind of hard to type with you leaning on me like this,' she told him. The statement was true, but not because of the weight of his body against her; it was difficult to think at all, because touching was doing strange things to her mind and to her stomach. Things that she didn't want to think about. Things that she didn't have time for.

'Okay, I'll type,' he told her, stretching his arm around her body to access the keyboard, effectively trapping her torso against his chest, and leaning his cheek against her hair. 'What should I write?'

This was ridiculous. This had to stop. Everything she was feeling for Tamaki had to stop. She couldn't handle this, the crazy jealousy when he was with girls, the longing to be with him when he was away from her but the clammy fear and confusion when they were together. She had to focus on her future. And she couldn't get lost in this labyrinth of emotion. For over ten years she had run from her feelings, and she wasn't going to let them take over her life now of all times, when she was so close to reaching her goal.

'Tamaki,' she said forcefully, yanking herself away from him; he might not understand the effect that his playful teasing had on her, but she still had to make him stop because the fact that it meant nothing to him didn't mean it meant nothing to her. He didn't hold her, though, letting her pull away, and she jerked more roughly that she had intended to. To her horror and shock, Haruhi saw his laptop flying from her lap.

Immediately, her mind flashed back to the first time she had met Tamaki, when she had smashed the renaissance vase; she didn't regret it now, because if she hadn't then she would never have gotten into the Host Club, never have made friends, but even so…why was this always happening? She lurched forward, trying to catch the computer, but just ended up sprawled on her face on the floor.

'Haruhi, are you all right?' Tamaki cried. She felt him kneeling beside her, helping her up, and she shook her head to dispel the cobwebs. For a moment, when her vision was skewed, it seemed that three Tamaki crouched before her, all but surrounding her, and she almost laughed. Then she remembered the laptop, and her smile disappeared.

'I'm so sorry, Tamaki,' she said, snatching up the computer and seeing, to her horror, that the screen had gone blank. The bottom was dented, too, and the top panel was loose. 'I'll buy you a new one.' Where would she find the money to pay for this?

'Don't worry about it,' he told her, taking the broken laptop and putting it back down on the floor beside him.

'I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm so clumsy. I'll—'

'Haruhi,' he said, laughing, 'don't worry about it. It's just a computer, I'll get another one. Now I have an excuse for not doing my essay—I'll show my teacher the smashed computer and get an extension. Besides,' he added, 'It was my fault, wasn't it?' Haruhi said nothing. In a way, it was true: she had dropped the laptop because she'd been pulling away from him.

When the silence had stretched on for a long moment she glanced tentatively over at him, and saw him watching her, his eyes unfathomable. Dressed in his preppy clothes, perfectly relaxed with one leg bent and the other stretched out before him, his styled hair slightly mussed from the sudden movement, he looked like he belonged on the cover of a fashion magazine, not in her small, utilitarian room. He was also sitting very close to her. Haruhi wanted to move, to get to her feet, to distance herself from him, but his immeasurable eyes held hers and she found herself completely immobilized. Neither of them said anything. Then Tamaki shifted slightly, and Haruhi felt his fingers brushing hers on the floor between them. She felt dizzy, and her breath came uneasily. What was happening to her? She felt lost, stumbling through the endless twists and turns of the maze of her feelings; nothing was clear, and nothing was as it seemed. She trusted Tamaki. He was her friend. He was also everything that she wasn't: passionate, emotional, he did nothing halfway, he followed his whims, he never held back. He was everything she wanted, and everything that terrified her. He was a prince, and half of her wanted to be a damsel in distress, but the rest of her couldn't handle it.

Even so, she couldn't pull away. Her own incomprehensible emotions, as well as basic curiosity and primal instinct, kept her motionless. His warm hand covered hers and her head spun; everything was blurred, she couldn't see anything clearly…except for his eyes, which burned with care and passion and other things, things she couldn't understand.

And then, with no warning, her bedroom door burst open. Haruhi snatched her hand from Tamaki's, trying to beat back relief, panic, disappointment, confusion and all the other emotions that assaulted her. She was running through dark halls and between tall hedges, unable to decide which way to turn.

'I heard something crash,' her father said awkwardly from the doorway, and Haruhi realized that although it had seemed like an eternity, only seconds had passed.

'Um, yeah, I dropped Tamaki's laptop,' she explained, gesturing to the computer, and her dad frowned.

'Haruhi, you have to be more careful,'

'Don't worry, Mr. Fujioka, it was my fault,' Tamaki said, clenching the fingers on the hand that had touched Haruhi's.

'Well. Anyway,' her father said, looking torn between the desire to get between his daughter and the boy beside her and the knowledge that he had agreed not to intervene. Finally he just smiled uncomfortably and backed out of the room, leaving the door half open. As soon as he was gone Haruhi, who could reach it from where she sat, leaned forward and closed it the rest of the way. Then she leaned back against her bed, staring straight ahead of her, keeping her hands firmly in her lap. She could think of nothing to say.

That had never happened before, and it scared her. How had she gotten so trapped in his eyes? This couldn't be happening to her. She had been safe, before: nothing could touch her, so nothing could hurt her. But all the defences that she had do carefully built were coming crashing down around her and she was left directionless; there were countless paths to choose from, and none of them—not even going back to what she had been—would leave her unscathed.

'Haruhi?' Tamaki said softly, and she glanced over at him, careful not to look him in the eye. He was twisting a red rose between his fingers, and a small part of her mind wondered where he had gotten it; did he just carry them around with him? He always seemed to have them on hand.

'Yes?' Was that her voice, small and weak?

'Haruhi, are you afraid of me?'

'What? No!' she cried, automatically looking up into his eyes. It was true—she wasn't afraid of him. She was afraid of herself. She stood before a locked door, and knew that if she opened it then she could never close it again.

'Then what's wrong?' he asked, dropping the flower and lifting his hand up to cup her cheek. 'You don't have anything to be frightened of. You know that I'll never hurt you, right?'

'I know,' she replied, and, just like earlier, she felt her eyes prickling with tears. Pulling away, she got clumsily to her feet and walked to the window, opening it and leaning out into the cool evening breeze. Her tears dried, but the burning sensation didn't leave her eyes and cheeks. And after all of the choices, all of the twists and turns she had faced, there suddenly seemed to be only two paths left: she could go back, or at least try to, and close herself off again, condemn herself to a life without anyone to lean on, to rely on; or she could step forward, with Tamaki.

Even though she couldn't see him, she felt him step up behind her. After a moment she felt his hands at her waist, and then he wrapped his arms around her, his chest pressed to her back, his neck bent so he could lean his cheek against her hair. His every move was tentative, though, and this uncharacteristic uncertainty made her feel slightly better. Maybe she wasn't the only who was confused, after all. Maybe…just maybe…he wasn't acting like this because he treated all girls this way. Maybe it was because…

'Haruhi,' he whispered, his breath stirring her hair, 'what am I to you?'

'You're my sempai,' she answered, just as softly.

'Is that all?'

'My friend.'

'And nothing more?'

'I don't know, Tamaki,' she sighed, her fingers gripping the windowsill. Which way to choose? The locked door, or the cold, grey path back to loneliness? 'I just don't know.' It felt…good…to have him hold her like this. Comfortable, protected, safe. She had thought that opening up, letting someone in, would be dangerous, but it didn't feel that way when he held her. I don't need to be protected, she thought to herself, and it was true; she was strong, she was stoic, she could look after herself. But she couldn't be strong all the time. Would it be so terrible to have someone there for her, in her moments of weakness?

Would she be betraying her mother by letting someone else into her life?

'Why don't you let me help you figure it out?' Tamaki asked quietly. He covered her hands with his, forcing them to relax, to release their death grip on the wood of the windowsill. Haruhi took a deep breath, realising that she couldn't run from him this time. Tonight she would have to make her decision, choose which path to take. She would have to face him, and decide once and for all.

'Tamaki,' she said, her voice steady, as she turned around. She expected him to step back, though, and when he didn't she found herself momentarily frozen again; his hands were on the windowsill behind her, trapping her, and their bodies were pressed together, hip to hip, chest to chest. 'Tamaki…' She forced herself to steady her breathing. 'Your turn, Tamaki. What am I to you?' She needed to know. If she was just another one of his princesses then the choice would be easy, and a small part of her actually hoped for that, longed to have her simple life back.

'You're my friend, too, Haruhi.' He leaned forward, his face suddenly very close to hers. 'But you could be more than that. I want you to be more than that.' For a long moment they just looked at each other in silence. Then Tamaki said, 'This is new to me, too, Haruhi. I'm confused, too, and I'm not sure what to do. But you've shown me something I've never seen before, a part of myself that I never knew existed. And I don't…I don't want to ignore it. I tried to, but I couldn't. You did something to me, Haruhi, something I don't understand.' He sighed and wrapped his arms around her, bringing her to him and gently pressing her face to his shoulder. She fit against him perfectly. Without meaning to, she felt herself smiling, felt her whole body relaxing. Ten years of forcing herself to be strong, or suppressing everything, of constant resilience and self-reliance, seemed to be falling away. Every hurt, every fear, every lonely moment that she had smothered within her suddenly wracked through her body and she found herself trembling, shaking uncontrollably.

'Oh Haruhi,' Tamaki murmured into her hair. 'How you turn my world, you precious thing. I'm here for you, Haruhi,' he promised as the pain swept though. 'I know this makes no sense for you. But I'll be here for you, no matter what…if the world falls down, I'll be here for you.'

'Tamaki,' she whispered, and that was all she needed to say. The door was unlocked, standing open before her, and she wouldn't be able to close it again; she didn't even want to. Slowly, she stepped through it, leaving the labyrinthine cage behind and stepping into the light. Tamaki held her tightly, gently, perfectly. He pressed his lips to her hair, and, for the first time in ten years, Haruhi felt whole.

Thank you so much for the reviews and stuff :)

I'm not sure if I'm going to keep going with this or not. I wanted to write their first kiss, but I might decide to just leave it at this.

I'm trying to work on my character development, and I'm not sure I kept them consistent in this chapter. If you feel like giving me your opinion I would greatly appreciate it.

Thanks for reading!

(And yes, those were Laby references)